The 18th Century Period (Mill, Wetstein, Bengel, Griesbach)
The early naive period is characterized by narrow concentration on collation, consensus, apologetics, with only a very crude and basic understanding of scribal habits and transmission. The materials were scarce, undocumented, and difficult of access. No scientific methodology was developed, and TC was done on the basis of 'common sense' and conjectural instincts; sometimes overpowered by emotion and suspicion (e.g. RC conspiracy theories). The Unitarian Movement began a steady ascent and became a dominant political force.
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The 19th Century Period (Lachmann, Scholz, Hort, Scrivener, Lake, Kenyon, )
By this time crude 'canons' were being applied, based on guesstimates or opinions of scribal habits and political/religious activity influencing the transmission of the text. Now other political and social factors also made a big impact, such as the democratic movements, Marx, and Darwin, and the rise of scientific rationalism. The accumulated data, reasoning, and outlook was well summarized and encapsulated by the Westcott/Hort theory. The historical-critical viewpoint was embraced and became the defacto standard for academia as universities became secularized.
The 20th Century Period (von Soden, Hoskier, Colwell, Souter, Brown, Metzger, Aland, Hodges, Ehrman)
With stunning new discoveries, such as hoards of earlier papyri, which required a complete re-evaluation of the history and usage of the Greek language, and with thorough efforts at systematic collation, both the achievements (e.g. the WH text) and the viewpoint had to be fundamentally changed. It became apparent that the transmission history was quite different and the complexity of the problem was greater than previously assumed.
Goals and interests were significantly modified and expanded. The original NT text appeared to some as a retreating mirage. Others found new reason to return to the traditional text. The divide became deeper and entrenched as TC split into two different factions.
At the same time, newer more scientific study was leading to completely different conclusions about textual transmission and scribal habits. The old paradigms of Westcott/Hort and the Alexandrian priority were falling apart.
The 21st Century Period (Royse, Fernandez, Hurtado, Head)
Now many previous political/religious issues begin fading into history, such as the Unitarian/Protestant/Catholic/Orthodox controversies. The greatly relaxed environment of the late 20th century causes old goals and disciplinary boundaries to be abandoned. New ideas are pursued, in a discipline now largely dominated by secular academia. The approach has become far more holistic and inclusive, with extensive interaction and dialogue between related disciplines.
The basic problems concerning methodology and results however, remain unsolved, and the field remains deeply divided over the fundamental issues.